From Thighland to Thailand

February 25, 2010

Thailand 3.6

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 4:17 pm

Thailand 3.6

February 24, 2010-Wednesday-6th day

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Can’t we get any peace and quiet here in this pitched black campground?  We’re expecting crickets and owls but this sound wakes us up at 4 in the morning.  “Er Er Er…Errr.”  Then there are two roosters then their buddies join in and now we have a quartet of competing roosters. They crow a different dialect here.  I’m pretty sure that in the US “Wake up!” is pronounced “Er er Er er Errr.”

I’m depressed since it’s only 0400.  I try not to make noise but Jennifer is afflicted with insomnia as well, a trait amongst bloggers.  We have to work some time.  There is this muffled noise.  At first I thought it was a speaker system with public propaganda that is played at night.  But I think it’s chanting from the Buddhist and there is a smell of burning either fire or incense in the air.  It is unusually cold this morning as we are dressed for cooler weather so I put some clothes on.  As I breathe out there is vapor from my mouth and that’s inside the room.  The cracks in the walls leading directly outside and the cracks under the door and windows let the morning air and smoke enter the room.  I was mistaken; there is air-conditioning. We do use our laptops to light up the room until the lights come on.  Even the bugs are attracted to our computer screens. And let there be light!  Like clockwork the generator starts up at 0540 cranks up and the engine roars but it’s annoying since it’s just outside our room.  What did I expect for a large corner room with a view and air-conditioning.

We go to the fine dining area which is located on outside pouch.  I see Larry walking looking exhausted.  He’s been up since 0230.  No smile; just says “Roosters for breakfast” and keeps walking without breaking stride.  The cooks look like they are in pajamas cooking like they just got up.  The pho noodle dish is good.  The Arlean and Pastor are less adventurous and prefer the made-for-American toast and eggs, which surprised me, but I guess I don’t know Jack.  Kane put things in perspective.  “Without electricity or internet I have more time to pray and talk to God.  What else is there to do?”   Blog.

We gather in our tour vans and appear to go sightseeing trying to loose anyone who may be following us.  We get to the Agape Kengtong Church and set up.  The size of the work area is smaller and basically it’s their sanctuary.  The triage area is set up under tents outside while the medical, optometry, and pharmacy are set up inside.  The dentists learn from the prior clinic and set up outside way in the back so that the screaming kids are not audible.  Jennifer is too sympathetic and didn’t like what she was seeing and said to Uncle Bill, Uncle Larry, and Uncle Lester (who is also Jennifer’s dentist) said, “ You guys make the kids cry and you have the worse job ever! Okay Jen, don’t hold back, tell us what you really think.  Dentists, I am sure, have a different perspective than patients.  They do get the usual American grade not out-dated anesthetic and these kids and adults alike seem to be a lot more tolerant, free or not, and appreciative than some patients back home.  Pulling teeth is not a pretty site but rest assured they really are anesthetized with the good stuff.  Everything is not rosy like Dr. 90210.  It’s a means to an end for the benefit to the patient.

The optometry department saw a lot of patients who got to sport fashionable eyewear.   They continue to bring sight to the blind and continued they production line.  The medical docs saw infants to geriatrics with the usual complaints of headache, respiratory, fatigue, back pain.  I couldn’t get any facelift patients.  Two government officials popped into the clinic that we were “just visiting” to see what we were doing.  We were concerned with them confiscating equipment or stopping what we were doing.  Hopefully they were just interested in getting freebies for themselves or for cosmetic surgery for their wives.  We feel charitable.  Whatever they want; that’s what I say.

We are grateful for all of the interpreters.   We saw over 5 different ethnicities: Akha, Lahu, Chinese, Burmese, Shan, and others.   We had to use interpreters for interpreters.  Luka was great and would try several languages until he could converse with them.  It was either, “I speak her language!” or “No. I don’t know that one.”  But he alone speaks about 5 languages.  I have a hard enough time with English.

You know I am not one to complain J, but while Jack, Kane, and eye have a production line going.  Bob is on easy street.  He has his concierge practice and sees only VIP patients, especially, with the Burmese with whom he speaks fluently.  They’re like family you know.  For example, a head honcho or honcha comes in with their entourage of three or four.  Bob is a friendly guy you know and loves talking with people, for hours.  And he is a smooth talker. So after he sees one who is officially checked in, they ask, “Oh by the way, be a dear and see my sister, would you?”  Bob is a sucker for a smile.  So that scenario repeated several times until he saw over 20 extra-unregistered people who got in the backdoor.  I mean, it’s okay, since we would have eventually seen some of them anyway.  Maybe I’m just jealous that I got all the decubitus ulcers and warty lesions to cut off and he got the rich and the famous.  I miss my practice.

One interesting patient that we fell in love with was this precious one-year old infant born with a congenital disease.  The whole body was covered with scaly dry patchy skin with cracks.  She had the prettiest eyes but literally 90% of her body was covered with diseased skin.  The docs had a conference to see how to treat her.  Diagnoses included atopic dermatitis or Icthyosis (fish skin disease).  We chose conservative treatment to treat the wounds.  The mother had adopted the baby.  The story goes that the biologic mother died at birth and the rest of the family didn’t want her after seeing the horrific condition.  Their culture was Animistic Lahu those that worship spirits.  They thought the baby was demonic and got rid of her by putting it on some steps perhaps of a church.  The adoptive mother saw the baby felt pity and adopted her.  She looks and plays with the child as if it were her own.  Well, I guess she is.  Blood is not always thicker than water.   God bless her and her baby.

All together we saw about 260 patients today.  That was a good day. Another day at the office it’s Miller time and searched for the local pub for a few drinks but couldn’t find one.  Oh well, I don’t drink anyway but after this trip I might. As we walk wearily back to our rooms, knowing that there is no power yet, Dr. Chinn says, “ The Golden Triangle Inn is looking better all the time.”

We got ready for dinner and Jen entered our bathroom (the one without a definitive shower area and just a toilet and sink) and asked if I took a shower because she stepped into something wet.  I said, “No, it probably didn’t drain.”  She took her shower but I didn’t have the heart to tell her it was probably urine.  I didn’t think we HAD to use the toilet since the whole bathroom gets sprayed down…at some point in time.

After another nice Chinese dinner we only have until 10:30 pm before literally “Lights out.”  Doesn’t leave much for nightlife.  Kengtong is definitely not a party town.

Lights out Kengtong….Medical Team international, Fresno

I have been saving this personnel file to add to a relatively shorter ejournal day so it wouldn’t to be too long so please meet the A-Team:

I keep mentioning we, we, we, we.  No, that’s not my poor French.  I should take this opportunity to define who are “We”.  Here it goes…We are the world… We are the children…We are the ones who make a brighter day so let’s start given…

Okay, okay, I took that last line from Michael Jackson, may he rest in peace.  The answer to that pressing question to who went on this mission will be presented on this Who’s who or Who’s Wu list of Medical Team International, Fresno.  This team has both talent and yeeeaarrrrs of experience.  Some depts. more than others as you will appreciate.

Spiritual Leader: Pastor Danny Jack needs no introduction.  He’s the Great White Hope to some and he tells us what we are SUPPOSED to do and how to act.  Don’t get mad at him because he did not set the rules.  God did.  He has had 35 years experience in ministry.  His experience with Southeast Asians go back with the liberations of the Hmongs to the US assisting in relocating tens of thousand of  Hmongs to Kansas City and Fresno.  He doesn’t let us slack spiritually and makes us do homework with these Chapbooks that he puts together. mien

General Helpers: Jennifer Chin, Irma Jue, Leroy Gee, Richard  Bruce

Jennifer Chin, rookie.  She’s my baby girl. This talent was drafted during her 1st year of eligibility.  She was so excited to go on this trip that she was the first to submit an application last summer.  She received a total of nine vaccinations in preparation for this trip.  She got them so that she wouldn’t get sick.  She got the point. She is working temporary jobs in San Francisco that allowed her to schedule this time off at a moments notice for this trip.   Anyone reading this who may have a permanent job please contact her for her resume.  I would love to get her onto some one elses payroll! She is assigned to the optometric division and gives new meeting to the daily grind (grinding lenses that is). Jennifer, You Go Girl!

Irma Jue, rookie: public relations and marketing manager at Kaiser hospital.  She brings an enthusiasm to this group that is infectious.  Her colorful personality and optimism will continue to reenergize us.  She is a member of the diaconate board at FCBC.  Her familiarity with glasses is invaluable as her late husband, Craig Jue, was an optometric technician for Kaiser.  Through her generosity she established the annual Craig Jue Scholarship for graduating senior high schoolers.  She’s working on a Kaiser $2 co-pay with the villagers but they already told her, “Why $2 when we can get it free?”  Good point.   She self admits that she is a “glutton for punishment” so she volunteered for this trip.  As a reformed cathoholic she was doing penance by hanging around Baptists but eventually became one herself.  Baptists have that affect on people.

Leroy Gee, esquire, rookie: an attorney for the Kings County Courts.  His expertise in the legal system will hopefully keep us out of legal trouble.  With his personal legal counsel by his side, Bill warned me what I say will and can be used against me.   Leroy was interested in doing whatever he can in whatever possible position and is ready to work in whichever capacity he can.  So far he has been lugging Bill’s luggage around so Bill won’t claim a worker’s comp injury.  He’s one of the optical technicians grinding lenses after lenses and is an avid videographer.  If you want to feel what we did, ask for one of his tapes to watch.  He has about 30 hours of footage so far.

Richard Bruce: his background is classified.  He is a true patriot, serving the USA in various capacities official and unofficial.  He is the brawn and troubleshooter or the team.  We can help him best by staying out of his way.  An ex-marine (although once a marine, always a marine) whose favorite saying is, “Pain is weakness leaving the body.  He’s a real trooper and risk taker whose memorable Kodak moment is his spread eagle formation on the back of a truck moving 50 mph during Thailand 1.0.  Contrary to belief, he does know how smile.  Get that whip out and whip those newbie’s into shape.  He doesn’t tolerate slackers.

Nursing Dept.:  Andy Alejo, Cindy Wu, Ming Chong, Arlean Jack, Gail Ho

Andy “Rambo” Alejo: a two-year missions vet nurse who’s nice to have around in those dark back alleys of Thailand.  He takes his years of emergency room experience to the fields and will help triage the patients to the respective departments and go wherever nurses dare to go.  He will use his sensitive side and show compassion, as he will be one of the first contacts to this team of foreigners.  His smile is a reflection of his confidence.  I know not to get on his bad side.

Cindy Wu: the better half of the Wu couple (just stating facts as both Cindy and Bob would agree).  She is a nurse practitioner and college professor.  She will be part of the Triage dept. directing traffic with Andy and who are the gatekeepers and will determine who will or won’t be seen.  She is known for he loud HA HA! Pause… HA HA! (She just did it reading this!) and for her dual double-clutch bear hugs and genuine affection.  She is always a pleasure to be around.  She is a very sensitive person and if you are lucky enough to have her as a friend you’re blessed.

Ming Chong:  our Thai liaison and tour guide.   When we go to Thailand he’s like an American Express card…don’t leave home without him or you’ll get lost.  Wait, HE got lost last time!  As a native Thai his stomach is stronger than yours so don’t eat what he does.  He’ll work as a psychiatric nurse for Fresno County and is our very own translator as he speaks about 5 languages.  He is a wealth of information when it comes to Thai culture.   Let him pick your brain and discover your psyche.

Arlean Jack: arguably the better half of the Jacks (I see a trend here) and wears the pants in the family despite Pastor’s constant sermons on submission.  She’s an OB nurse specialist at St. Agnes Medical Center so I hope we get a chance to deliver a few babies so we can see her in action.  She’s upbeat and not as serious as we think she is and has a great sense of humor.  He keeps her husband in line and his best counsel.

Gail Ho: definitely better half of the Hos (definitely a trend).  She keeps Bill sane and her soothing voice is equal to 10 mg of Valium.  She is one of the nicest people you meet and never will talk bad about you (to your face at least).  An eternal optimist and a very sensitive, empathetic individual, she comes out of retirement during these mission trips to support her husband.  She makes a better roommate than me.  She’s his bag lady. “Don’t let that bag out of your site!”

Pharmacy Dept.: David Chow our veteran drug dealer and drug pusher (35 years).   It’s amazing he doesn’t get glasses from the optometry dept. since he could go cross-eyed counting tens of thousands of pills.  He’s a poker face with a dry sense of humor.   I like him already.  When he speaks, we listen, but we have to figure out if he’s joking around.  A man of many talents, he’s delegating the optical chores this time to Jen, a task he helped out the last mission.

Medical Dept.: Kane Kuo, Jack Patton, Bob Wu, Mark Chin (80 years of experience)

Kane Kuo, rookie: a much needed emergency room physician formerly attended FCBC for four years and moved to SoCal to practice ER medicine (SoCal vs. Fresno? What were you thinking?).  His passion to help on this trip is expressed by his very presence, a commitment that pulled him from his very busy LA practice.  He makes a valuable asset to this medical team with his expertise in acute care and trauma medicine.  The guy has an appetite and I would like to know his secret to staying thin.

Jack Patton: a cross between Marcus Welby and House.  His knowledge of medicine is equaled by his knowledge of the Bible and the history of the churches.  A walking encyclopedia I usually just nod at what he’s saying because it’s going over my head.  A gentleman with a gentle voice, he has become my mentor in family medicine.  He recently retired after 40 years in practice but is so good they asked him to come back.  If you have the time (a lot of time) he’s a great conversationalist.

Bob Wu: hey Wu, you who. He’s a passionate man indeed and very opinionated in his beliefs.  Don’t get in a debate with him.  I also just nod my head when he’s talking (but I roll my eyes too).   We have history and we go way back to medical school and residency.  He’s why I’m at FCBC.  Bob’s a talented physician and musician and has made great sacrifices and has already been serving Burmese clinics for several years.  He salivates at the thought of spending a week in Myanmar.  With an anesthesiologist on board we might get to do a little surgery.  He’ll be and asset as our translator Burma and will know his way around.  I’m going to stick by him.

Mark Chin: AKA as Dr. 93710.  He has an affinity for blood as long as its not his own and hopes he gets a chance to “Cut to cure.”  A trained plastic surgeon turned GP on these missions; he flies by the seat of his pants, with Dr. Patton looking over his shoulders.  He is responsible to accurately record the daily activities of the medical team in detail as best as he can remember.  That there lies the problem since his Old Timers disease is prematurely arriving so he might have to make up a few things along the way.  Don’t take him too seriously.  Most people don’t anyway.

Dental Dept.:   Lynelle Win, Larry Lowe, Lester Lowe, Bill Ho (108 years of experience)

Lynelle Win, rookie: a very personable and likable dental hygienist in the field for over 20 years.  She likes to get to know the inside of a person, especially their mouths.  Her commitment to this mission is supported by the fact that she risks the lives of her three children leaving them in Tom’s hand and misses them dearly.  She adds a woman’s touch to the dental team.

Lester Lowe:  down the fort and with Larry is the core of the dental team.  He’s dependable and would give his shirt off his back to you and let you keep it.  He’s the high tech guru and with this satellite phone ensures that we have contact to the outside world all the time.  Look forward to his best-selling DVD of the Thailand mission trip and ask for the last two in this ongoing mini-series.

Larry Lowe: tag team member of the Lowe Bros. He’s a happy-go-lucky guy and when you are around Larry you are probably smiling.  He’s a workhorse and troubleshooter and is the master of extraction.  No tooth can hide from him.  A man dedicated to his job at home or abroad.

Bill Ho: needs no introduction.  After a long and successful dental career he retired to commit himself to church and mission work such as this one.  He is the life force behind this team and drives to our max.  He makes us guilty because we can’t keep up with him.  His brain is always thinking and is always a few steps ahead of us.  A humble gentleman who desires no credit, he deserves accolades, but when the do-do hits the fan, he gets the heat.  He shows true grit.

Optometry Dept.: Dennis Chinn, Akira Tajiri (117 years! of experience or 4,237, 452 eyes examined, give or take)

Dennis Chinn: that O.D. means he O.D.s on effort.  Don’t let his age full you but he outpaces a lot of younger guys like me, but that might not be saying much.  He’s often the last one packing and the one of the longest ones working.  He’s a friendly guy with a warm smile and makes the patients happy especially with his God given talents.

Akira Tajiri: inventor, optometrist extraordinaire, and entrepreneur.  He’s not a man of many words because he doesn’t have time to talk because he is working so hard.  He’s a generous man donating thousands of dollars worth of equipment and supplies for glasses toward overseas mission projects.  He is the inventor of the process that allows the team to grind the lenses on the spot and make glasses to give to the patients within an hour.   At 82 years-young it shows that you are never too old to give back and serve.  No excuses now.

Luka Chermui: honorary team member who is our Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar liaison.  He is the Thailand Ministries Foundation Administrator which runs the Akha Medical Clinic and Akha Youth Development Center which provide housing and scholarships for over 100 students.  The foundation serves the hill tribe people.  He also has a tea industry to raise funds for the foundation and FCBC’s Bull Ministry provide cattle for the tribe people and we helped purchase a rice field so that it -could feed the students and make them more self-sufficient.

When we return congratulate these individuals for a job well done as they are representatives of First Chinese Baptist Church of Fresno.


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